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Dave Salmoni Shares His Fatal Attractions

Really, who hasn't dreamed of keeping a pet tiger in their apartment? The difference, however, is that the folks profiled in Animal Planet's hit series make it a reality — often with tragic consequences. It's not called Fatal Attractions for nothing (Friday, 9/8c, Animal Planet). We asked Dave Salmoni, the network's large-predator expert, what motivates people to bring the wild things where they are. ...

Joseph Hudak

Really, who hasn't dreamed of keeping a pet tiger in their apartment? The difference, however, is that the folks profiled in Animal Planet's hit series make it a reality — often with tragic consequences. It's not called Fatal Attractions for nothing (Friday, 9/8c, Animal Planet). We asked Dave Salmoni, the network's large-predator expert, what motivates people to bring the wild things where they are.

TV Guide Magazine: In a word: Why?
Salmoni: What's common among [these people] is that they feel they relate to wildlife. They have a passion for it, which is what I've based my life on. But there is a breakdown somewhere, where they feel they can actually have one as a pet.

TV Guide Magazine: But they're not all arguably crazy, like Timothy Tread-well (the documentary filmmaker who lived among grizzly bears and was eventually killed by one).
Salmoni: If you have a wild animal, you might be described as crazy. But I don't think that's the case with most. I've been lumped into that category with Treadwell many times when someone sees me swimming with a great white shark or playing with a lion. But I have degrees in zoology and 12 years' experience handling animals.

TV Guide Magazine: Yet you've still had close calls?
Salmoni: Unfortunately, I've had many! I was attacked by my male lion back in 1999 when I first started being a trainer. He licked my face every morning and we went on walks together. It was a better relationship than most people have with their dogs. Then all of a sudden, he was trying to kill me.

TV Guide Magazine: This week's episode is about a pet python. When you were dating Chelsea Handler, you went on her show with one around your neck. Any chance she'll return the favor?
Salmoni: [Laughs] I don't think she's ever going to entertain the thought of having any exotic pets, so I don't think she'll ever appear on Fatal Attractions. But Chelsea and I separated under really good terms and she and I are close friends, so all in good humor.

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